Barenaked Ladies

Biography: Toronto, Canada's quirky popsters Barenaked Ladies were never ones to follow a trend. They were more interested in making someone laugh than being astute and serious. Most of all, a friendship consumed this band and that bond cemented their place in alternative rock. Teenage friends Ed Robertson and Steven Page found themselves laughing at the innocent and child-like term "barenaked lady" while attending a Bob Dylan concert in 1988. Both Robertson and Page agreed that it would make a funny band name, and since the duo was already into rock music and playing guitar, the Barenaked Ladies were born. Joining them were bass man Jim Creeggan, his brother Andy on keyboards, and drummer Tyler Stewart, and the Barenaked Ladies began to blend their comic relief sensibilities inside an eclectic mix of jazz, folk, and rock. The famous self-titled Yellow Tape (1991) captured BNL's first independently recorded material, however Canadians weren't too fond of the group's naïveté. They were branded a novelty act by some, but The Yellow Tape proved successful when it became the only indie release to achieve platinum status in Canada. Record labels entered an instant bidding war, and Sire won over the band. Their rock & roll dreams were beginning to unfurl. Their zany, wacky, and hip debut Gordon was released in 1992, and college kids across North America were keen on singles such as "Be My Yoko Ono," "Enid," and the charming favorite "If I Had a $1,000,000." Canadian contemporaries also warmed up to the silliness of "If I Had a $1,000,000" and BNL began their reign as Canada's pop kings alongside the Tragically Hip. Not everyone was amused, however.

Toronto mayor June Rowlands considered the band's name to be sexist and demeaning to women, and therefore forbid the Barenaked Ladies from playing a local gig in 1992. In typical style, BNL laughed it off and resumed their schedule.

At the height of grunge, Ben Mink came around to produce the acoustically mellow Maybe You Should Drive in 1994. Songs like the jaunty "Alternative Girlfriend" and the sweetly melodic "Jane" were college radio favorites, but changes were on the way. Before they could collect themselves for a third album, Andy Creeggan left the band in order to finish college and Look People guitarist/keyboardist Kevin Hearn hopped on board for BNL's joint tour with Billy Bragg...and never left. Hearn joined the band for 1996's obscuro-pop album Born on a Pirate Ship and again, BNL charted new celebrity territory by appearing on an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 to perform their Top 40 hit, "The Old Apartment." Success was fast, leaving BNL to sellout countless summer shows. This merry mayhem was captured on the band's first live album, Rock Spectacle (pronounced Rock-Spek-Tak). The uninhibited and playful effort introduced a new audience to the aspect of the band that had been winning them fans since they started -- their live shows. It even included one of their signatures -- improvised rapping and stage banter. Rock Spectacle was BNL's first album to be certified gold in the U.S. The Barenaked Ladies had finally arrived, positioning themselves to take over America -- and the pressure was on.

Stunt, the band's fifth album, was issued in July 1998, marking a pivotal time for BNL. "One Week" was their most popular hit to date, and Stunt debuted at number three on Billboard. The North American Stunt Tour moved them from theaters and clubs and made them stadium sweethearts. Sadness loomed over BNL's carefree effervescence, however. Hearn had been diagnosed with leukemia earlier that spring and spent almost six months recuperating. Geggy Tah's Greg Kurstin and fellow BNL comrade, multi-instrumentalist Chris Brown, filled in for Hearn on tour. After a bone marrow transplant in October, Hearn was free of all cancerous cells and BNL was at their finest.

The Don Was-produced Maroon followed two years later and did moderately well with "Pinch Me" and constant touring. Still their comical selves, and now glorified pop stars, Maroon introduced a more mature group and Page's lyrics had now become more abrasive. They grew into men, some of them marrying and having children by this time, so the progression was natural. That same year, BNL won two Juno Awards for Best Pop Album and Best Group, as well as being nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Pinch Me."

They proved to be unstoppable...and still enjoying their rise to fame and having fun at the same time. Taking its title from their song "Box Set," a greatest- hits collection, Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits (1991-2001), was issued in fall 2001 and celebrated BNL's work and bond as a musical family. Two years later, the band returned with Everything to Everyone. ~ MacKenzie Wilson, All Music Guide

The band's first full album, the hotly anticipated Gordon, released in 1992, was a smash hit in Canada and included some of the band's most well-known songs, including "Enid", the first single; "Be My Yoko Ono", the single which helped fund the album; "If I Had $1000000", which spawned a Kraft Dinner -- or, in the U.S., Kraft Macaroni & Cheese -- throwing tradition at live shows that the band has discouraged; and "Brian Wilson", named after Beach Boy Brian Wilson (who later covered the song on a live album). It benefited from the fact that a number of songs on the album (including the latter three) had been live favorites for a while and had been recorded on past releases like the Yellow Tape. While the band was doing remarkably well in Canada, they found that it translated into little success in the U.S..

BNL's second album, Maybe You Should Drive, released in 1994, fared considerably less well with the Canadian public. On the album, the band toned down its comic image, collaborated with kd lang producer Ben Mink, and produced what many critics acknowledged as a more mature work. They tried touring in America, but the tour was a failure and ended up losing money despite an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Before the next release Andy Creeggan decided to leave the band. He had become disillusioned with the direction of the band, and was not fond of touring. In addition, Creeggan wanted to attend McGill University to further study music.


The quartet in the Pirate Ship era "Shoe Box" video. The video was also the first video to feature Kevin Hearn (not shown)The band released Born on a Pirate Ship as a quartet in 1996. The album received two large boosts from the inclusion of the song "Shoe Box" on the Friends soundtrack, and from the Jason Priestley-directed video for "The Old Apartment," which got notable American airplay. The Ladies appeared as the guest band on an episode of Beverly Hills 90210, immediately preceding their 1996 tour; they performed "The Old Apartment," "Life, In A Nutshell," and "Jane" at the Peach Pit After Dark night club. Kevin Hearn was hired as the keyboardist for the tour and ultimately joined the band full time.

From two dates on the Born on a Pirate Ship tour during 1996, BNL recorded and released a live album called Rock Spectacle, which had a modest radio hit in the United States with "Brian Wilson." The album went Gold in America and the success of "Brian Wilson", coupled with the success of "The Old Apartment", lead to a new situation for the band. Having shed their self-proclaimed "geeks in short pants" image, the band knew their next album would be their chance to make it big in America.

They turned out to be right, as the 1998 release Stunt became (and remains) their greatest success, buoyed by "One Week", which coincidentally spent "one week" at the number one spot on the storied Billboard Hot 100. Immediately after Stunt was released, however, Kevin Hearn was diagnosed with leukemia, eventually undergoing a bone marrow transplant and spending several months at a Toronto hospital recovering. The band toured, with friends Chris Brown and Greg Kurstin both filling in on keyboards until Kevin recovered enough to rejoin them on the road. The singles "It's All Been Done" (used as the opening theme song on the short lived animated TV series Baby Blues) and "Call and Answer" (which later appeared in the film "EdTV") also came from this highly successful album. The band was also asked to contribute a song ("Get In Line", ending up as a single) to the soundtrack of the FOX cartoon, King Of The Hill.

Maroon, released in 2000, did fairly well led by the single "Pinch Me", though not as well as Stunt had. In 2001, they released a compilation album, entitled Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991-2001, in reference to a line from their song "Box Set". It contains 15 singles from previous BNL albums, two singles from other compilations, and two new tracks (including the single "Thanks, That Was Fun").

Everything to Everyone was released October 21, 2003, coincided by the first show of the unique Peepshow tour. The first single off the album was "Another Postcard (Chimps)", which received modest radio play. "Testing 1, 2, 3" was the second single off of the album and received a video, but no CD single, while "Celebrity" was released later in the UK with a CD single, but no video. "Maybe Katie" and an edited version of "For You" from a concert in Glasgow, Scotland were also released as singles to radio. Unfortunately, the album was their weakest seller in years, with a short chart life, despite positive reviews. With the release, the band fulfilled their contract with Reprise Records, which they did not re-sign. This made the band independent for the first time since 1992 (though they retained a distribution relationship with Warner Music). On the subsequent Everywhere For Everyone tour, in early 2004, the band began offering their full live shows for purchase as a download or CD-R on an eponymous website, as well as subsequent studio releases



Expand

Barenaked Ladies' Scores

  • TV
  • Music
Average career score: 57
Highest Metascore: 59 Maroon
Lowest Metascore: 56 Everything To Everyone
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 0 out of 3
  2. Negative: 0 out of 3
3 music reviews
Title: Year: Credit: User score:
56 Everything To Everyone Oct 21, 2003 Primary Artist 8.5
59 Maroon Sep 12, 2000 Primary Artist 8.2
tbd Snacktime! Aug 9, 2011 Primary Artist tbd
57 Grinning Streak Jun 4, 2013 Primary Artist tbd